A few days ago, I looked out of my study window at the dandelions dotting the grass, and came over all nostalgic, recalling my grandmother making dandelion wine, long, long ago. She also made elderberry wine, some kind of potent blackberry cordial and a wonderful ginger beer that involved something furry-looking in a big glass jar, presumably the ginger beer “mother” (more on that another time, perhaps).
Anyway, I’m making some dandelion wine. I don’t know how my grandmother did it, but I found a wonderful Web site from a pigtailed renaissance man by the name of Jack Keller (www.winemaking.jackkeller.net) that features a collection of 30 dandelion wine recipes including a few of Keller’s own. He’s serious about wine making, and uses perplexing terms like “rack, top up and refit airlock.” But I’m just experimenting, so I’ve created a simple recipe that’s a cross between one of Keller’s and a couple of others I ran across. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you shouldn’t use dandelions plucked from a lawn drenched in chemicals.
3 quarts dandelion blossoms
1 gallon water
6 cups sugar
1 lb white raisins
2 lemons (zest and juice)
2 oranges (zest and juice)
8 whole cloves
1 package dried yeast
- Pick the dandelion blossoms and prepare them immediately. Remove any green stems, wash the blossoms and put them in a large bowl. Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the blossoms. Cover with a cloth and let them steep for a day or two (no longer).
- Pour the mixture into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the raisins, cloves, sugar and the zest of the lemons and oranges and boil for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through muslin into a crock.
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water and let it stand for 10 minutes. When the wine-to-be has cooled a little but is still warm, stir in the yeast, orange and lemon juice. Cover and let stand for a day in a warm place. Pour into uncorked bottles and leave them (loosely covered) in a dark place for three weeks. Then cork and store the bottles in a cool place for six months to a year.
For something more reliably — what’s the word? Oh yes — drinkable, you might try Whitecliff Vineyard’s award-winning Awosting White, one of the Valley’s most popular local wines, or their gold-award-winning Riesling. It’s short notice, but on the weekend of May 12 and 13, the Gardiner vineyard is hosting a Match Made in Heaven Wine and Cheese Tasting, when you can sample a variety of local cheeses paired with selected wines, none of them dandelion.
If you can’t make it to this event, check Whitecliff’s Web site for news about other special tastings (www.whitecliffwine.com). It’s a lovely spot to visit.